In a report released Thursday, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) warned that the drought that plagued the U.S. in 2012 will continue this year and that extreme weather—a mix of continued dryness in some areas, flooding in others and the destructive interplay of a warming world in general—is what farmers and U.S. residents should expect as the main growing season arrives.
"This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA's National Weather Service.
As The Guardian reports:
Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer's end.
The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy.
According to NOAA, Fifty-one percent of the continental U.S.--primarily in the central and western regions--is already experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. "Drought conditions are expected to persist," the report said, "with new drought development, in California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, Texas, and Florida."
Despite some large snowfalls--even those of late winter--the drought picture does not look good. In fact, most of the late season snowfall is likely to result in mild to severe flooding, but have little positive impact on the growing season.
"The drought that we accumulated over the last five or six years in the middle part of the country and also the south-west is going to take a long time to remove," said Furgione.
As The Guardian report adds, the prospect of another dry year is causing consternation in the midwest and along the Mississippi where falling water levels last year caused panic for those who live along and depend on the river:
A coalition of mayors from towns along the river visited Washington this week to press for funds to keep the waterway open.
"If the river is shut out, that's $300m a day that is affected by that in economic losses because you can not shift the traffic up and down the river," said Hyram Copeland, mayor of Vidalia, Louisiana.
Communities across the wheat and corn-growing areas, that took the brunt of last year's drought, had been looking for heavy snows and rains this winter to prime the land for the next planting season.
"The bottom line is we need a big spring because we do not have the buffer or carryover we did coming into 2012," Mark Svoboda, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, told a forum on Wednesday.
However, the [NOAA] forecast suggests that big spring will not materialise.